Some people might say they have a love/hate relationship with caffeine. While coffee or an energy drink may seem like your best friend at six o’clock in the morning when you’ve got a busy day ahead, it can turn into your worst enemy when those caffeine overdose symptoms start to really kick in after having a little too much.
If you’re not careful, you could really suffer some serious consequences. Here’s what you need to know about caffeine in order to consume it safely — and what to do when you’ve gone overboard.
What Exactly Is Caffeine and How Does It Work?
Caffeine is a chemical stimulant and the world’s most popular psychoactive drug most commonly used to help people stay mentally alert. It works by blocking adenosine (a neurotransmitter that plays a role in sleep), which prevents drowsiness.
In addition to stimulating the central nervous system, caffeine also stimulates the heart, muscles, and blood pressure control centers. It can also cause people to urinate more frequently (although the widely held belief that caffeine causes significant dehydration is ultimately not true).
Common Foods and Beverages Containing Caffeine
One of the most popular ways to consume coffee is in beverage form — often by drinking coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks. A single 8-oz cup of coffee, for example, can have anywhere from 95 to 200 mg of caffeine.
One Five Hour Energy shot has about 200 mg of caffeine while a Monster Energy drink has about 160 mg. A can of Pepsi has about 38 mg and a 8-oz cup of Matcha tea has about 70 mg of caffeine. You can check out The Caffeine Informer’s caffeine database for more of your favorite drinks and the amounts of caffeine they contain.
Regarding foods that contain caffeine, chocolate is the big one to look out for. It can have a caffeine content of 0.1 to 0.5 percent depending on the type of cocoa beans used and the fermentation process it underwent.
Caffeine can also be found in candy, medications, supplements, and almost any food product that claims to give you more energy (jerky, bars, cookies, and so on). You might be surprised to find that some highly processed foods you never would’ve thought to contain caffeine actually do contain it.
Some examples of popular foods you never thought might contain caffeine include:
- Clif Energy Bars, containing about 55 mg per bar
- Jolt Gum, containing 45 mg per piece
- Morning Spark Energy Instant Oatmeal, containing 60 mg per packet
- Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream, containing 60 mg per 8-ounce cup
- Wired Waffles, containing 200 mg per serving
How Much Caffeine a Day Is Safe?
Caffeine affects everyone differently and some people are naturally more sensitive to it than others, particularly if they don’t consume it very often. People who do regularly consume it tend to build up a tolerance over a sustained period of time, so their bodies may be able to handle more of it before they experience any effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine. Although amounts will vary, that typically works out to about four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of soda or two energy shots. Children shouldn’t be given beverages or foods high in caffeine and teenagers should be limited to consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day.
Caffeine Overdose Symptoms to Look Out For
Consuming more than 500 to 600 mg of caffeine per day can lead to some pretty nasty side effects. You could experience insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, an upset stomach, an increased heart rate or even muscle tremors.
Keep in mind that some healthy adults may experience side effects even from consuming far less than 500 to 600 mg a day. Your personal level of caffeine sensitivity, age, body mass, use of medication, health conditions, and proneness to stress or anxiety will impact how you react to certain levels of caffeine.
Severe symptoms can occur in some cases, most of which call for immediate medication attention. If you experience difficulty breathing, confusion, vomiting, hallucinations, chest pain, irregular or a very fast heart rate, loss of control over your muscles or convulsions, you should call Poison Control right away ( 1-800-222-1222).
Natural Treatments for a Caffeine Overdose
If you know you’re experiencing some of the less severe symptoms listed above from overdoing it with caffeine, there are a few ways you can help push it along so it exits your system a bit quicker than normal.
- Firstly, water is your friend. Drinking lots of it will help flush out all that caffeine and rehydrate your entire body. Aim to drink one glass of water for every cup of coffee, can of soda, or energy drink.
- Caffeine is actually known to be great for priming the body for a big workout, so if you can get up and exercise, then you should do it! Whether you decide to walk, run stretch, lift weights, get on the elliptical or do something else, releasing some of those jitters through movement will be good for you.
- Snacking on healthy, low-sugar, high-fiber fruits and veggies that are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals may also help since high levels of caffeine can inhibit their absorption. Try fresh veggies like bell peppers, cucumber, and celery, which are loaded with water and have a crunchy texture that may help soothe those jitters.
- Lastly, you may want to try some breathing exercises to slow your heart rate and ease anxiety. Try these four simple techniques for an effective deep breathing exercise that can be powerful enough to bring almost instant relief if done right.
Caffeine is fine to consume regularly, as long you know your limits!
Have you ever suffered from a caffeine overdose? If so, what has worked well for you in treating your symptoms?
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